The great fire in London started on 2 September 1666. Historians tell us it began at the bakery of Thomas Farriner and caused a lot of damage. Two hundred thousand people lost their homes which were mostly timber framed structures. The monetary value of loss and damage was estimated at £10,000,000 (over £1 billion in 2005 )
Altogether 90 churches were destroyed, although 52 of them were later rebuilt by architect Christopher Wren, including his masterpiece St. Paul’s Cathedral on Ludgate Hill completed in 1710. Who were the scapegoats for the fire? The French Catholics were blamed.
On 19 July AD 64 a fire began in the city of Rome which lasted for three days. The fire destroyed the centre of Rome, including temples and houses. According to historian Tacitus, the citizens blamed Nero. They knew he wanted to demolish old buildings and construct new magnificent structures, so they assumed he was behind it.
To diffuse the blame Nero blamed the Christians as responsible for the fire, and so began the persecution of Christians. Christians were tortured, they were covered with the skins of beasts and made to crawl around the amphitheaters, while they were torn by dogs, lions and other wild beasts. They were nailed to crosses and burnt alive to provide lighting for Nero’s parties.
In the end around AD 476 it was the Roman Empire which collapsed and Christianity flourished. Since then, hundreds of thousands of Christians were persecuted, jailed, or executed for their faith in Jesus Christ sometimes by the state church.It was the Church of England that persecuted the Pilgrims and Puritans. Many evangelical Christians were beheaded or burned at the stake for heresy by the Church of England or the Crown. But as John Foxe wrote:
And yet, notwithstanding all these continued persecutions and horrible punishments, the church daily increased, deeply rooted on the doctrine of the apostles and of men apostolical, and watered plenteously with the blood of saints.
Tertullian, one of the early church fathers, also said:
All your ingenious cruelties can accomplish nothing; they are only a lure to this sect. Our number increases the more you destroy us. The blood of the Christians is their seed.
However, the greatest persecutions against Christians, was not during the Roman Empire, the Spanish Inquisition or the Middle Ages, but this persecution has been during the twentieth century. Millions of Christians have been persecuted and killed by the followers of Karl Marx, Lenin, Mao, Hitler and other dominated communist and socialist countries. Thousands of churches were closed in Russia and others burned to the ground. This is how Solzhenitsyn described what happened:
Churches were stripped of their valuables… Tens of thousands of churches were torn down or desecrated, leaving behind a disfigured wasteland that bore no resemblance to Russia as such….People were condemned to live in this dark and mute wilderness for decades, groping their way to God…..15,000,000 peasants were brought to death for the purpose of destroying our national way of life and of extirpating religion from the countryside….Hatred of religion is rooted in Communism…..The ruinous revolution has swallowed up sixty million of our people.
Today in Egypt, Nigeria and other African countries, Christians are being massacred but this persecution of Christians might not be manifested in only these countries. It is now emerging in many Western countries, and especially in England and America. There are so many instances where Christians are being marginalized and persecuted in the West. In fact as Paul McGuire warned us:
There is a coming a wave of persecution against Bible believing Christians in Western nations such as Great Britain, France, Australia, Germany, the United States and other nations….There is sweeping legislation in these Western nations designed to restrict, fine and imprison Christian’s who believe the Bible literally.
In Germany Christian Home Schooling were seized from their homes and sent away secret psychiatric hospitals while their Christian mothers were strip searched by “storm troopers.” German police now escort German home schooling children to public school because the German courts have ruled that Germany cannot tolerate “parallel societies,” which simply means that the German government does not want Christian children taught Christian morality and a belief in God. They want all children of the German State, as Hitler did, to be taught humanism and anything against sexual “morality.
Another report by the Christian Institute: Marginalizing Christians, Instances of Christians being sidelined in modern Britain, examines the growing marginalization of Christians and catalogues many cases of discrimination. For instance, in January 2009, a poll was conducted that showed more than four out of five churchgoers (84 percent) think that religious freedoms of speech and action, are at risk in the UK. A similar proportion (82 percent) feel it is becoming more difficult to live as a Christian in an increasingly secular country. So called “equality and diversity” laws have also made it worse as Christians are considered intolerant.
Three years ago in May 2010, Dale Mcalphine was handing out gospel tracts to shoppers when he told one of those who was passing by and a gay police community support officer that he believed homosexuality was one of a number of sins that go against the Word of God. He was then arrested and locked up in prison for up to seven hours and charged with using abusive words contrary to the Public Order Act 1986. Mr. Mcalpine had delivered open-air sermons and handed out tracts in Workington for years without any trouble with the police, but this was one of his worst moments of his life. He said:
I felt deeply shocked and humiliated that I had been arrested in my own town and treated like a common criminal in front of people I know…..My freedom was taken away on the hearsay of someone who disliked what I said, and I was charged under a law that doesn’t apply. I was not homophobic and I have gay friends, but I feel compelled to urge people to abandon all types of sins so they can seek salvation. ‘If you are preaching hate and calling on people to harm others, it is right that is against the law. But I would never do that. If we have a free society, I should be allowed to preach the Gospel as generations have before me.
Christian campaigners were alarmed that the police seemed to be using legislation originally introduced to deal with violent and abusive rioters and football hooligans to curb free speech.”Listen to Peter Hitchens who wrote an article in the Daily Mail–How long until Christians are blackmailed for daring to speak?
The Public Order Act of 1986 was not meant to permit the arrest of Christian preachers in English towns for quoting from the Bible. But it has. The Civil Partnerships Act 2004 was not meant to force public servants to approve of homosexuality. But it has. The Sexual Offenses Act of 1967 was not meant to lead to a state of affairs where it is increasingly dangerous to say anything critical about homosexuality. But it did.
And the laws of Britain, being entirely based upon the Christian Bible, were not meant to be used by a sneering judge to declare that Christianity had no higher status in this ancient Christian civilization than Islam, Buddhism or Hinduism.
How did it happen that in the course of less than 50 years we moved so rapidly from one wrong to another? We have travelled in almost no time from repression, through a brief moment of mutual tolerance, to a new repression. How long before Christians are being blackmailed by work colleagues, for daring to speak their illegal views openly?
Daily the confidence of the new regime grows….And if Christianity has officially ceased to be the basis of our law and the source of our state’s authority (a view which makes nonsense of the Coronation Service) who, and what – apart from the brute power of the manipulated mob – is to decide in future what is right, and what is not, and what can be said, and what cannot? This process, if not halted, will lead in the end to the Thought Police and the naked rule of power.
Austrian lawyer Gudrun Kugler is the director of the Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians. Her think tank recently released a Report on Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians in Europe. In that report she writes that:
Christianity has been around what now is Europe since the first century, with some parts of the New Testament written to people in Greece and Rome. But a new report is warning that open hostility to Christianity across the continent is on the rise and intolerance is being paired with legislative power to attack and violate the religious rights of the faithful. She cites page after page of examples of persecution and hostility towards free and open demonstrations of Christians across Europe. Christians are being marginalized and taken to courts over issues related to faith.
She found that European Christians are under attack for their freedom of expression, freedom of conscience parental rights, hate crimes, emblems representing Christianity are being destroyed and they are subjected to negative stereotyping in the media.
According to the report, in Austria the government enforced sex education guidelines that “practically prohibit the teaching of authentic Christian sexual values,” and in Germany, a mother of eight was jailed for eight days after she refused to send her nine-year-old son to school for its sexual education program. She said:
I have the impression that journalists and policy-makers are often more anti-Christian than their fellow citizens. But they shape the mood of the country. What we observe is that Christians are increasingly being described as “homophobic, sexist, intolerant and unworldly. But there’s a good reason for the attacks, too, she noted. Christianity and the cross are a constant bone of contention. Perhaps crucifixes and other religious imagery are reminders that people ought to put their lives in order. Christians are also the last obstacle to a new vision of secularity which is so politically correct that it verges on totalitarianism.
Another family that was lost sea for weeks attempted to leave the U.S. over what they considered government interference in religion. Hannah Gastonguay said her family was fed up with government control in the U.S.
As Christians they said they didn’t believe in“abortion, homosexuality, and in the state-controlled church,” U.S. “churches aren’t their own,” Gastonguay said, suggesting that government regulation interfered with religious independence. Jesus isn’t the head of the church. God isn’t the head of the church.”
Among other differences, she said they had a problem with being “forced to pay these taxes that pay for abortions we don’t agree with.”The Gastonguays weren’t members of any church, and Hannah Gastonguay said their faith came from reading the Bible and through prayer.
Could we be on the verge on totalitarianism? Yes and time is running out, in fact if you believe in End Times Bible Prophecy, disagree with any government especially the United States, or concerned about the sanctity of marriage, sanctity of human life, critical of the United Nations, critical of communist countries, anti-war, critical of the Federal Reserve, critical of job outsourcing to China or India or any other issue the government deems as “Hate Crime” you will be labeled a terrorist.
Persecutions have been the normal experience for believers. The Bible doesn’t teach that when the going gets tough in Western nations, God is going to rapture the Western church. The Bible teaches persecution and tribulation are part of the Christian walk. But there is hope because God is on His throne. Remember Peter said God was able to keep Lot even in Sodom and Gomorrah and so He will keep us until His time.
In the meantime we need to pray for the grace to endure and to remain faithful whatever the cost. We should be teaching people to fall in love with Jesus, develop that intimate relationship with Him on a personal daily basis. We should also be spending our time, talents, and resources for the Kingdom of God and spiritually and practically preparing ourselves for this increasing persecution.